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Context: I'm 29, travelling solo to San Francisco & New-York for the first time. I have a budget of around $140-170 a night. I'll be doing a week in each but my concern pertains mostly to New York given the recent law brought in.

I just want some privacy, cleanness and a kitchen so I can cook meals. Therefore a 'whole apartment' on Airbnb really appealed to me.

However, I'm worried now because it's breaking the law. What is the general feeling on whether this is enforced?

And as a person renting, if caught, can you be penalised or fined? or is that only for the host.

I've tried searching legit apartment/hotels but the prices are much above my range so I'm afraid i may be looking at a hostel or taking the risk with Airbnb.

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I nearly voted to close as we don't usually give advice on breaking the law, but after some reading it appears it may still be legal in some situations, so I've tried to cover that in an answer. –  Mark Mayo Jul 28 '13 at 14:32
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For the sake of completeness could you please add a link to (an article referring to) the law you are talking about? I think this would make the question more understandable for people who are not familiar with this new law (like me). –  Bart Arondson Jul 28 '13 at 16:52
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The exemption as it stands only applies if the owner is home - ie if you're sharing a room of theirs. This is what AirBNB is arguing on behalf of a recent host who was fined for this - his room-mate was home at the time.

The law itself governs the hosts - they're entitled to host you if they're at home. So as a guest, you'd expect them to be home as well, under the current law. If they then aren't there, you could argue you weren't expecting that. However, if you exchange emails and know that you're going to a place where the host isn't there at the same time (eg a whole apartment), then you might be in some hot water, although my understanding is that it's only the hosts that are getting pinged at present.

My thought is like this: if you were staying at a hotel that didn't have a license, you don't know that, you'd assume they do. If it turns out their license had expired, you'd be fine (reasonable assumption). However, if you knew in advance that the hotel had no license...I'm no lawyer, but that may be a different story.

As the linked article points to, however, there are currently loads of listings on AirBNB, all flouting that law...

If it's just you and you've got some time, I'd consider the YHA. It's a nice hostel, very central, and completely legit :)

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